By Rev. Bruce Case, Mississippi Conference Peace with Justice Coordinator
Photo right: Representing the Mississippi Conference from left to right, Sarah King, Rev. Bruce Case, Rev. Susannah Grubbs-Carr, Rev. Kenny McGill, Rev. Kathy Price and Rev. Timothy Thompson.
Six people from the Mississippi Annual Conference recently joined others from all over the world at Lake Junaluska in North Carolina for the 7th Annual Peace Conference. Three renowned leaders, each from one of the three Abrahamic Religions, were the featured presenters. The theme of this year's conference was "Longing for Peace: Exploring the Heart of God." The Rev. Dr. Samuel Wells of London, Rabia Terri Harris of Stony Point, New York, and Rabbi Or Rose of Newton Center, Massachusetts, were the three speakers. The event also attracted presenters that explored areas such as iconography, calligraphy, and how to plan interfaith gatherings. The Yuval Ron Ensemble inspired the conference with ancient songs of praise from all over the world.
After each key presenter shared their thoughts on the theme of the conference, the 300 participants had a chance to gather in smaller groups to share what enriched them, what challenged them, and what to do with what they've learned. Every participant from Mississippi expressed not only their plans to come back to next year's conference, but also a desire to bring a larger contingent of Mississippians to this event.
"This conference exceeded my expectations. I enjoyed all of the presentations, but I also got so much out of hearing other people's thoughts on what it means to faithfully live in a world with people who are from other religious traditions", said Rev. Bruce Case.
The Rev. Susannah Grubbs-Carr drew new inspiration to forge meaningful connections beyond her own faith tradition.
"I was reminded at this conference that this holy work happens-one crucial conversation, one relationship building moment, one open heart to another at a time. And those moments begin with each and every one of us acknowledging that we need each other's story to better understand our own, and we need each other's light for our own light to shine brightly for the hope of the whole world," said Grubbs-Carr.
This was Sarah King's second time attending the Peace Conference. She will carry home the conviction that interfaith dialogue can make a great impact on our world.
"I came away from this conference with a new appreciation of the Jewish and Muslim faith traditions. We must respect other faiths if we are to co-exist on this earth," King stated.
The Rev. Kathy Price was impacted by two words that were shared by one presenter. Price said, "We have been caught in the tangled web of what is perfectly described as "paranoid certainty," or the absolute belief that my way is right in the ways it connects with the mystery of God, and other ways are absolutely wrong."
When asked at the conclusion about what we should do next, Rev. Dr. Sam Wells, said, "I think our task is to see an angel in the face of the stranger, and to act accordingly."
The recent events of violence and fear that took place in Lebanon, Turkey and France would indicate that the stakes are high, and there is much work to do.
The 2016 Interfaith Peace Conference at Lake Junaluska is Nov. 10-13. For more information, go to www.lakejunaluska.com, or click here.